Community Food & Drink

Billy Tse Restaurant Seeks Outdoor Sidewalk Seating at 240 Commercial Street

Sidewalk area in front of Billy Tse Restaurant, proposed for outdoor patio seating.

Billy Tse Restaurant presented a proposal to add outdoor seating on the public sidewalk area in front of 240 Commercial Street. Operating since 1996 at the location, Mr. Tse said he wants to put out 10 tables, each with 2 seats, for 20 seats total to offer food and drinks outside. He referenced the exterior patios at nearby Joe’s American Bar & Grill and The Living Room.

Billy Tse (right) and Attorney Daniel Toscano at February 26, 2013 NEWRA ZLC Committee meeting.

The walking area remaining on the sidewalk would be 4 feet wide. The office building entrance would cause a gap between the seating, resulting in 2 separate patio areas. One would be in front of the sushi part of the restaurant while the other would be on the bar side.

Abutters have asked that the tables and chairs be taken inside after closing so they do not create a problem. Because alcohol will be served, the seating area must be gated or roped off from the remaining public sidewalk and directly accessible to the inside of the restaurant.

Hours of operation will remain the same with a 12:00 am midnight closing, 7 days per week, although the patio may close earlier. The outdoor seating would be seasonal from April 1st through October 31st.

A concern was raised about noise from music and TVs with the windows and doors open to serve the new outdoor seating area. An abutter at 236 Commercial Street also brought up rampant rodent activity in the sidewalk area. She asked that trash bags and boxes be put out in front of the restaurant rather than the neighboring property. A representative from 59 Fleet Street asked for the drawing plans to share with residents. No residents from the large residential Prince Building attended the meeting.

There will be no change to the raised garden area in front of the restaurant. A neighboring business, Anthony’s Cafe on the Waterfront, has a few seasonal breakfast/lunch seats in the adjacent corner area, but those are not part of the Public Improvement application.

The use of a public sidewalk requires approval by the Boston Public Improvement Commission, including input from several municipal agencies. The restaurant will also seek an amendment to its current all-alcohol beverage license for the additional seating.

This presentation was for informational purposes, made on February 26, 2013 at the Zoning, Licensing & Construction Committee meeting of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association. NEWRA and the Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) will likely vote on the request at an upcoming meeting. Both groups are advisory and the final decision will be made by city officials. A hearing is currently scheduled for March 20, 2013.

20 Replies to “Billy Tse Restaurant Seeks Outdoor Sidewalk Seating at 240 Commercial Street

  1. Billy is a great long-time North End owner and we should not stop him from setting up a few outdoor tables. I support Billy!

  2. This will open the door to outside seats everywhere. If they are everywhere on commercial, then definitely coming to hanover. Anyone that has seen what goes on at Joe’s knows this is going to be noisy and loud. I’d hate to see this keep expanding into the residentail parts of the north end.

    1. quit whining! there is not enough room for outdoor seating on hanover unless they make the street one lane. street activity is part of living in the city. in fact, it is one of the best parts. you sound much more suited for the suburbs.

      1. Not whining, do the measurements. There is more room on most NorthEnd sidewalks than in the small sidewalk in front of Billy Tse’s. There is only a small space between the restuarnt and the raise brick area. People will not be able to walk. And there will be a lot of noise that will hurt the properties in the area.

          1. Anthonys doesnt serve booze and is only in the day. Billys seating is likely to result in a shutdown of anthonys which is informal without a permit.

            1. maybe Anthony’s should have gotten a permit instead of putting out tables illegally. There is plenty of room on the other side of the planter for people to walk. there is no way outdoor seating can happen on Hanover St with the existing configuration. outdoor seating is good for business and Billy Tse has been a solid neighborhood business owner for decades.

      2. You are too late. The door has already been opened by others. At this point, it is hard to deny his request and arbitrarily approve the request of someone else. His request is in line with other requests that have already been granted.

        1. Actually, it isn’t because this is a PUBLIC sidewalk. The people on Salem St got the owner to take out roof seats and that was his own property. Every sign and chair on the sidewalks today is illegal.

          Once he gets this, it will move to the new mexican place on Lewis, then North Square to Hanover and Salem, wherever there is a public sidewalk. And if there isn’t enough space, they can expand the sidewalk. That’s what is likely to happen here once they get approveal.

          The neighborhood will regret letting this happen because it sets a strong precedent.

  3. Are you seriously suggesting the public give up the sidewalk completely on commercial street??

    How hypocritical are the commenters here that would NEVER ALLOW a single outdoor table on the street where they live? Yet because its a few blocks away where OTHER PEOPLE live, then it’s 100% ok and the people that live here should give a away a PUBLIC sidewalk so you can have a drink with your wontons.

    Havent you seen the plans to expand the sidewalks on hanover? I guess you are in support of doing that so that all the restaurants can set up outdoor tables. Enjoy listening to that all night.

    This is a pubic sidewalk! Billy doesn’t own it, the taxpayers do. And you want to give it away for nothing! Gee, I’d love to get free land from the city. I guess the people here would be willing to have their taxdollars wasted away!!!!!

  4. I never understood why the city allows any business to grossly increase their personal profits by using public space that you, me, EVERYONE pays for and owns. Other than the increased sales tax on food does the city (do WE) get anything out of it?
    Am I missing something?
    I have nothing against Billy or his business. In fact I’m a relatively frequent customer. I just don’t understand generically why it is allowed at all and under any circumstances.

  5. i woud prefer billy tse’s having sidewalk seating than some hanvover or salem street restaurant that only cares about tourists and has no regard for the locals. billy tse’s survives first and foremost on the neighbhood folks (also see boston common, volle nolle, dino’s, monica’s, and hopefully the thinking cup). i support neighborhood businesses that support the neighborhood. unfortunately, this is not the case for most establishments in the north end.

    1. You can’t stop one while allowing the other. This sets the precedent for restaurant owners to use public sidewalks and take the property for their own profits. Even if you don’t care about the people that live around here, think about how easy that will be to spread tothe tourist places.

      1. you’re probably right. the next thing you know, residents will be putting their dining room tables on the sidewalks. it is going to be madness!

      2. You do not know what you are talking about. Every restaurant in the city with outdoor seating pays for the use of the sidewalk and nobody can take anything. Outdoor seating requires a change in license to reflect the increased capacity and if alcohol is served there are strict rules. What is your problem?

    2. NEWNC is scheduled to vote on this application at its meeting this Monday, March 11, and NEWRA is scheduled to vote on it this Thursday, March 14. Their meetings are held at the Nazzaro Center beginning at 7:00 PM. If you have an interest or concern about this application, you should attend these meetings and also consider sending comments to the Boston Public Improvement Commission at City Hall ( and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (attn: Nicole Leo).

      The following information was presented at NEWRA’s Zoning, Licensing and Construction Committee meeting on February 26, 2013:

      The outdoor dining plan comprises two, separate areas in front of the restaurant, extending six feet from the buidling into the sidewalk, each with 5 tables and 10 chairs. A rail or fence of some type will enclose most of each area, as required of all outdoor patios that serve alcohol. Plans show that 4 feet of clear sidewalk will remain between the patios and the raised flower bed for pedestrian passage (apparently a city minimum), in addition to the sidewalk on the other side of the flower bed.

      The owner plans to operate the patios seasonally (April through October) and serve until the closing hour in his existing alcohol license, which allows service to midnight and requires clearing of all patrons by 12:30 AM, 7 days. However, the ZLC Committee noted that the Licensing Board typically allows outdoor service only to 11:00 PM, and the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, which issued the non-live entertainment license (TVs), typically requires that windows and doors be closed by 11:00 PM. I anticipate that these hours will be a key discussion point at the upcoming NEWNC and NEWRA meetings. The community can petition for an earlier closing hour for outdoor service, as it succesffully did at Battery Wharf (10:00 PM).

      Notwithstanding that some establishments in our neighborhood may have outdoor tables or other sidewalk items without permit (actually, quite a few do), which is illegal, I believe the Public Improvement Commission and the Licensing Board are careful in permitting outdoor dining, especially on public ways (sidewalks). They consider public need, public benefit and public safety, among other factors. They will also consider community impacts, if the community raises concern. This community has been successful in stopping outdoor patio proposals at certain locations, and has supported outdoor patios at other locations.

      To expand the restaurant onto the sidewalk, Billy Tse’s needs a permit from the Public Improvement Commission that requires the owner to pay a fee (rent) to the City based on the square-foot area of encroachment in the right-of-way, among other conditions, including maintenance of the area. The restaurant also needs to amend its existing all-alcohol beverage license to increase allowed seating from the current 90 to 110. I believe this increase in seating has no effect on the annual license fee (about $3,000), so the only cost for this license amendment is the application fee – a relatively small cost.

      In reviewing proposals to increase the number of restaurants or to expand restaurants (e.g. into second floors, basements or sidewalks), I believe the community should also consider how the increase in the number of restaurant seats and alcohol service seats can affect the volume of pedestrian activity and traffic, late-night activity and noise (if applicable), the amount of trash that is generated and collected by commercial trucks, and the amount of delivery trucks. For instance, at this restaurant, there will be in increase in trash volume proportional to the increase in seats, at least seasonally. Though these items may not seem significant case by case, all of these impacts have increased significantly in our neighborhood over the past 25 years.

      I say all this to respond to some questions raised in earlier comments above and also to respond to a comment on another article, that NEWNC and NEWRA don’t consider “the facts” in making their decisions. They do, and the most important information often comes from the residents who attend their meetings.

      NEWRA’s ZLC Committee will next meet on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 7:00 PM, at the Mariners House in North Square. The meeting agenda will be posted on this web site soon.

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